The Celtics and Clippers were informed days ago that such an arrangement is not permitted under league trade rules, even if the deals were separated into two distinct transactions, a league source told CBSSports.com on Thursday.
In a radio tour in the hours before Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, commissioner David Stern appeared on several programs and put this saga out of its misery. His strongest comments came on ESPN Radio in New York, where Stern said, "The teams are aware that the collective bargaining agreement doesn't authorize trades involving coaches' contracts."
The only incentives other than player contracts that are permitted in NBA trades, Stern said, are draft picks and cash.
"The teams know that," Stern said. "It has been confirmed to them. ... It can't be gotten around by breaking it up into two transactions."
Stern said -- and a person familiar with the communication between the league and the teams confirmed -- that there is no separating the two deals at this point because it is obvious all the pieces are part of the same negotiation.
"If you think those, at this point -- having been all over the media for the last week -- are separate transactions ... I have a bridge that I would very much enjoy selling to you," Stern said.
CBSSports.com reported on Tuesday that the Clippers informed the Celtics they were out of the Rivers trade talks, which would've sent Garnett to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan and as many as two first-round picks from the Clippers to the Celtics in return for Boston letting Rivers out of the final three years and $21 million left on his contract. Despite indications that the teams had since re-engaged in talks, a league source said Thursday, "I don't think they are. They've both known for some time already" that the league wouldn't allow the deal.
The concern from the league's perspective is that Rivers' value and salary cannot be accounted for under cap rules and thus cannot be included in a trade involving players -- nor can it be negotiated as a contingency to a trade.
"It would be an issue of getting around the cap," a league source said.
The Celtics' motivation for discussing the arrangement came from Rivers' reluctance to preside over a rebuild in Boston with Garnett, 37, approaching retirement and Paul Pierce, 35, perhaps on the way out. Garnett has $18 million guaranteed left on his contract over two years, and Pierce has $4 million guaranteed next season. Garnett also has a no-trade clause.
But Garnett is said to have been willing to waive the no-trade clause if he were able to land on a contending team with Rivers as the coach.
The Clippers, facing Chris Paul's unrestricted free agency this summer, were incentivized to explore any possible means to acquire Rivers in the hopes that it would bolster their chances of keeping the All-Star point guard. Since pulling out of trade talks with Boston on Tuesday, the Clippers have continued with their coaching search by interviewing Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw and former Cavaliers, Hornets and Nets coach Byron Scott. Former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins also is a strong candidate for the job.